Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Pope: Many Conservatives Going "Backwards"

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Associated Press reported yesterday, "Pope Francis has blasted the 'backwardness' of some conservatives in the U.S. Catholic Church, saying they have replaced faith with ideology and that a correct understanding of Catholic doctrine allows for change over time."

Evolving doctrines.

The Pope particularly notes that the Catholic Church division is deep in America.

It isn't only in the Catholic Church. We Protestants are pretty divided on some fundamental issues as well.

Be informed, not misled.

Catholics are deeply divided.

Francis’ comments were an acknowledgment of the divisions in the U.S. Catholic Church, which has been split between progressives and conservatives who long found support in the doctrinaire papacies of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, particularly on abortion and same-sex marriage.

Many conservatives have blasted Francis’ emphasis instead on social justice issues, such as the environment and the poor, while also branding as heretical his opening to letting divorced and civilly remarried Catholics receive the sacraments.

AP says: 

The 86-year-old Argentine acknowledged his point, saying there was “a very strong, organized, reactionary attitude” in the U.S. church, which he called “backward.” He warned that such an attitude leads to a climate of closure, which was erroneous.

“Doing this, you lose the true tradition and you turn to ideologies to have support. In other words, ideologies replace faith,” he said.

“The vision of the doctrine of the church as a monolith is wrong,” he added. “When you go backward, you make something closed off, disconnected from the roots of the church,” which then has devastating effects on morality.

“I want to remind these people that backwardness is useless, and they must understand that there’s a correct evolution in the understanding of questions of faith and morals,” that allows for doctrine to progress and consolidate over time.

Francis has previously acknowledged the criticism directed at him from some U.S. conservatives, once quipping that it was an “honor” to be attacked by Americans.

Is biblical marriage "backward?" Is abortion---wanting to kill unwanted, unborn children "backward?"

There is a similar divide in the Protestant Christian Church. We're seeing it manifest in the "not so united" United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian, Lutheran, and other church groups.

As with the Catholic Church, the division among Protestants is generally centered around the God-created institution of marriage and the sanctity of life.

Recently, we have also put the issue of "gender" on the cultural table.

These issues are not only dividing and splitting churches but have created the deepest political divide in our country since the Civil War. 

Of course, other issues are of concern to most Americans, i.e., the economy, inflation, national security, etc. But let's focus on the moral challenges in our country.

Founding Father John Adams said, "We have no government armed with the power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

Protestants are also divided.

The Sojourners movement was founded by Jim Wallis. Generally, Wallis has claimed to be an "evangelical," which he is not by definition, but his movement has become the largest organized "Christian left" voice in the country under his leadership.

Wallis has now stepped aside from his leadership with Sojourners. In 2021, Wallis joined Georgetown University as the inaugural Archbishop Desmond Tutu Chair in Faith and Justice. He also leads the Center on Faith and Justice at Georgetown. Wallis is known for his advocacy on issues of peace and social justice. He views Christianity through the lens of social justice. Although Wallis actively eschews political labels, he describes himself as an evangelical and is often associated with the evangelical left and the wider Christian left. He also worked as a spiritual advisor to President Barack Obama.

Adam Russell Taylor has been appointed President of the Sojourners to replace Wallis.

Taylor wrote a lengthy, scathing article last Thursday following the Republican presidential debate, titled "6 Warning Signs of Christian Nationalism in US Politics."

After trouncing Trump, he said, "But my main interest in watching the first Republican primary debate was to get a sense of whether Republican candidates would challenge the growing anti-democratic forces within their party. For example, will Republican candidates continue to defend Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results? And will they continue to embrace the 'us-versus-them,' fear and grievance-based politics that propelled Trump to power? I was also on the lookout for indicators of candidates’ support for white Christian nationalism, a set of ideas enjoying an alarming resurgence (and super-charging the anti-democratic forces) that pose a grave threat to both our democracy and the witness of the church."

The rest of his very long article is about spotting "white Christian nationalists." And root them out of the political process.

He says there are many forms of Christian nationalism. The most insidious forms include people who say things like, “America has always been and should remain a Christian nation.”

"Here are some questions," he says, "I’ll be asking throughout the upcoming election to evaluate whether any candidates seeking public office are advancing Christian nationalism and anti-democratic views."

Here are the 6 questions he will be asking throughout the presidential campaign.  

1. Does the candidate perpetuate the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump?

2. Does the candidate stoke fear through “us-versus-them” rhetoric or by demonizing anyone deemed “other”?

He notes, "Two recent studies show that Christian nationalism is highly correlated with racism, white supremacy, homophobia, patriarchy, and Islamophobia."

He adds, "For example, hard-line stances on immigration taken by most of the declared GOP candidates indicate that, at the very[ least], these candidates are trying to exploit the degree to which many conservative voters fear the United States’ growing racial and religious diversity.

3. Does the candidate proclaim a revisionist history account of the U.S. being “a Christian nation”?

He says, "Our nation was founded around the First Amendment’s commitment to no established religion and the free exercise of religion, but last fall, some candidates for Congress and governor got a lot of attention for more overt and aggressive statements about America’s founding as a Christian nation. In the coming elections, we should watch for these blatant examples as well as softer statements that carry this connotation.

4. Does the candidate talk about America’s “chosenness”(sic)  and greatness without acknowledging the way our nation has continually fallen short of its founding principles?

Barack Obama comes to mind.

5. Does the candidate only talk about faith or “biblical values” when it comes to hostility to LGBTQ+ rights and opposing abortion?

6. Does the candidate demonize racial justice commitments or dismiss them as being “woke”?

Taylor says, "Christian nationalism is often tied to an ethno-nationalist identity, which in the U.S., means being white. Many candidates who claim to be “anti-woke” are simply refusing to imagine an America in which the promise of “liberty and justice for all” is truly extended to people of every racial group. 

A  few days ago, I got this email from a listener to our daily radio program:

Subject: Gary Randell's Straight Talk show

I rarely email/contact radio personalities/pastors but I felt I had to get this off my chest. I value Gary's heart but the focus on Biden's errors and decisions (human or moral) and the Trump 'can do no wrong' is amazing to me and sad.

We (I'll throw myself under the bus) Christians should be imbarrassed (sic) to praise/support Trump as we do. 

Maybe Trump runs on a conservative platform, but to ignore his past and present character (which is far from Christ-like) and illegal activity and put him on a pedistol (sic)is hypocritical on our part. We need to be discerning towards evil (any political side) and gracious least (sic) we fall into fallacy ourselves.

Today I'll address this comment from our audience, the Pope's comments, and Adam Russell Taylor's lesson for the Left on our radio program. Please join me. Here's how.

Be Informed. Be Discerning. Be Vigilant. Be Engaged. Be Prayerful.